« Voices of Iraq - Not Heard in Germany | Main | It's Election Day: Vote! »



this is yet another one of those moments where I go "unbelievable" - when I should be so used to these things by now, not to keep having to say that. Well, I said it anyway, especially after reading the german original:

"hebelt US-Präsident Bush durch politische Argumente aus"

I think you are being far too generous in your translation:

"and counters US President Bush with political arguments"

To my knowledge, "hebelt aus" implies success, while "counters" is more neutral.

What Telekom is really saying is:

"and disproves President Bush with political arguments"

(Note from David: You're right. I'll correct my version.)

On that note, engaging in a bit of unashamed self-promotion here, I think that Bin Laden is indeed pursuing a new strategy, but one that relies on idiots like Telekom to do the heavy lifting of splitting the west, of isolating America, so that Bin Laden can then step in and be the new Ho Chi Min.


quite right. Bin Laden wants to be the new Arafat.

I can just about see it, Bin Laden being flown to Paris in a French government jet in order to have life saving kidney dialysis.

The article is not by T-Online, but by dpa correspondent Anne-Beatrice Clasmann. It's not from Europe, but a report from Cairo. And it's not saying that UBL is peaceful, it's saying that UBL is trying to present himself in a different way than before (and there are obviously some people in the Middle East who fall for that).

Note from David:
1. Where on T-Online's page is the author Clasmann/dpa mentioned?
2. "a report from Cairo". So what? Who cares where it is written? International correspondents hardly work from home. I never said it's "from Europe". It's presented in Germany's largest online portal. That's what's important.
3. I didn't say that T-Online said Bin Laden "is peaceful" - so no need to criticize me on that. but I resent the Bin Laden image T-Online is presenting.

If Osama does go on TV in Germany, or to a French hospital, I say we reactivate the 8th (U.S.) Air Force and RAF Bomber Command.

@hm Disclaimer: I'm not a professional translator, so any improvements for the English text are welcome.

On the other hand, I don't charge David professional prices. :-)

Note from David: Confirmed and appreciated. Plus, he did the translation very fast, on my request.


Note from David: K. - try again, without insulting this blog or me. You're a guest here.

Clasmann is writing about rhetorics, about "Sprüche", about image and about perception in the Middle East (that's why I mentioned that it is a report from Cairo). For most readers, it isn't necessary to mention in an article that Bin Laden's group killed thousands of people in several terrible terrorist attacks -- everyone I know is aware of that and condemns that. "Apologist" is a really low slur.

Note to David: I was serious, but apologize for posting this in public. I should have e-mailed you.

Note from David: I agree.

quoting t-online as a source of news is like quoting web.de news (whose "Blutiger Zwischenfall überschattet Geiseldrama" - "bloody incident puts a shadow on hijacking" or something like that, sorry for my translation - i still can't forget...). i mean, there's no wonder when they write trash and there's also no wonder when they steal, so why should there be wonder when they do both at once?

btw, does anybody have a link to the original source from clasmann?


If T-Online is adressing only the 6 minutes aired originally by al-Jazeera, there is another 12 minutes. Here is the al-Jazeera English translation of the entire 18 minutes.

One long whine. I love it.



I did not mean to criticise, your work is very much appreciated, besides, I didn't think you did anything wrong, I just thaught you were being too generous to Ms. Clasmann.

Niko, I'm afraid we still disagree: Until UBL is caught, it does matter whether he wants to present himself differently. Maybe not to you or me, but quite obviously e.g. to Clovis Maksud -- and possibly a lot of other people in Middle East countries. And that's why I believe that it is important to understand both the differences in his presentation and other people's perception.

The fact that perceptions matter is illustrated by this very discussion: Coming from the point of view that the German (or European?) media are trying to defend UBL, "the bearded man with the soft voice" sounds apologetic. Without that presumption, it's a stylistic way to contrast image and perception with reality: He remains a terrorist even with a soft voice.

It seems to make a difference for some people, if you are blown up by a quietly speaking terrorist or a primitive kind of Nazi. Forget about it!
Bin Ladin didn´t tell no specific news, he was talking about the old junk in Michael-Moore-Speak.
Are we surprised? Do we conclude something from this video?
If they had the chance to carry out a terroristic act in the US, they would have done this.
So what...

I've recently had some second thoughts abotu the nature of OBL's most recent tape. I think the T-online article may very well be mostly right, although it is completely misinterpreting the implications.

The tape DOES seem to be a conciliatory rationalization. It is undeniably very similar to the tape promising a "separate peace" with Europe after the Madrid bombings. Remember also the consensus seems to be that the Spanish cell responsible was more or less sacrificed as it was going to be uncovered by ongoing investigations soon in any event. The europeans cracked down very hard on their internal problems after 9/11, although it took the investigations some time to close in.

That same "divide and conquer" aspect of a conciliatory rationalization is not incompatible with another theory I came across that OBL is mostly trying to split the US from Israel. Nor is it incompatible with an earlier theory of mine OBL has been forced to admit he has bitten off more than he can chew.

If he can deescalate the conflict with the US, he can refocus on Israel as his rallying point. He definitely needs a common enemy, or he'll lose all his support.

This fits well with my recent impression that the Afghan elections had a bigger effect than a lot of people realized. It might be only because I have started reading different journals that group things geographically, but I see a possibly very strong link between the Afghan elections and Sadr in Iraq finally trying to disarm somewhat in order to take a role in the democratic process. The jury is still out on whether or not such a link exists (or even if Sadr is actually moving in that direction for real), but if the link exists, I feel sure it will not be a weak one. "Strong" does not always imply "obvious".

If that IS the case, then OBL's tape makes a huge amount of sense. He's basically conceding a limited defeat while he still has assets worth preserving. Whether he uses those assets to threaten and gain influence in the governing of Iraq and Afghanistan, or to later restart a violent conflict with the west is a decision he can make later. By sitting out the next few months, he can wait and see which strategy will best serve his goals.

But if he gives up on Israel, he loses every speck of credibility with his followers. They will no longer have any common enemy at all. He can't use the House of Saud in that role, because a lot of Arabs disagree with him on that one, and he needs to appeal to as broad a base as possible.

Reality check? I'm not sure any of that stands up too well, but the pieces seem to fit together, even if they cannot support their own weight.


I think you and I are essentially on the same page. I read the comments before posting mine, but mostly skimmed yours because I saw Arafat's transformation as more of a victory, and OBL's (Osama bin Laden) as being forced upon him.

But I think OBL is definitely keeping his options open for precisely such a transformation.

I really need to read more on recent developments regarding Sadr before I get too wedded to my most recent pet theory.

What's the deal ?
This article is an analysis of OBL's style of speech and is NOT interpreting anything. It doesn't valuate his person or his actions. It tries to summarize the speech and it tries to describe the subtle change of style in retroperspective to former speeches. Why do you people lose your head when OBL is speaking ? You should not because that is what he wants.

I'll bet Osama's new video wins one of those Palm Doors at the Cannes Film Festival. "A remarkable Cinematic achievement by European standards". "A towering nuanced epic". Will this sequel do as well as the original Farenheit 911?

As I recall, around the year 1200 Europe was swept with rumors of a "new Messiah" from the East, who was coming to save them from feudalism, a liberator who would change life forever. He arrived. His name was Ghengis Khan.

Yesterday I could see the Moore Film "Fahrenheit 9/11" on German Television Pro 7, it also run at Austrias ORF. After one hour I slept away. I cannot understand why it got a price in Cannes, it was simply an awful bore.

Das schlimme an dem (Pro)Osama Bin Laden-Artikel ist, dass er gar nicht originär von einem t-online-Redakteur stammt, sondern von der "Deutschen Presse Agentur" (dpa). Allerdings ist t-online das einzige Web-Portal, das diesen Artikel in voller Länge und unkommentiert veröffentlicht hat!!!

@scum of the univ,

transformation of a terrorist in the leader of a nation sounds familiar to me. The one I think about is coincidentely about to loose his power ...
I think this tape is designed for at least three different audiences. OBL is a dangerous man, not only in terms of terrorism, but in terms of propaganda skills. And for to return on the t-online-thing: the non commenting of the dpa article shows a lack of awareness of this side of the threat. Given the naivity of the vast majority of t-online readers, its, to put it straight, outrageous.
F**k, this bastard is smart, and this tape will do its job inside of european MSM's Unterbewußtsein. I get the more and more worried ...

I just read the German original of the article and was surprised that it doesn't sound at all like an excuse of OBL. Rather, it just comments the speech and is more sceptical than enthusiastic of OBLs wording and rethorics. These differences are due to some translation "mistakes".

One example:
"Bin Ladens jüngste Botschaft erweckt den Eindruck, der bärtige Mann mit der sanften Stimme sei auf der Suche nach einem neuen Image."

Bin Laden's latest message gives the impression that the bearded man with the soft voice is looking for a new image, away from the jihad rhetoric to a more factual political message.

Ever heard of Konjunktiv? A more correct translation would be:

Bin Laden's latest message suggests the bearded man with the soft voice was looking for a new image, away from the jihad rhetoric to a more factual political message.

Another example:
Statt waffenstarrender Polemik verwendet Bin Laden in seiner Videobotschaft Ironie, um George W. Bush Unfähigkeit zu attestieren.

Instead of martial armed polemics, Bin Laden uses irony to attest to the failures of George W. Bush.

Correct translation:
Instead of martial armed polemics, Bin Laden uses irony to declare George W. Bush incapable/to accuse George W. Bush of incapability.

And so on... the only thing you could accuse the author of is giving too much attention to OBL. But the tone of the article is neutral.

Note from David: I disagree with your conclusions. Our translation correctly covers the meaning of the German original and the intent of the author. Of course, one can always discuss the translation of details, but that's true of your "translation" as well. If at all, our posting was too kind to the author.
I'm German, so don't try to tell me we didn't understand the German text.

@F. Hoffman -
If they had the chance to carry out a terroristic act in the US, they would have done this.
So what...

I wouldn't be so sure. AQ's operations have planning stages that are typically measured in years. They don't want to just inflict some damage and run away - it's more important to hit a couple times as cleanly and spectacularly as possible than to hit many times sloppily to them. It isn't about the damage, it's about the effect.

When terrorists hit again and again and again, as in Israel, the public becomes kind of numb to it. Develops a psychic immunity to the intended terror. If they only hit every few years, however, it gives them the chance to relax, get on with life, and then WHAM! They show you that you shouldn't have relaxed.

We've broken up at least a couple of intended attacks (that recall hearing of - maybe several more), but others could quite plausably be in their second or third year of planning. And it's getting to the point where the public is complacent again...


no, your translation doesn't cover the tone and intent of the author. By removing the Konjunktiv you distort one important element of the original text, namely the indication of a possibility. "Erweckt den Eindruck, [OBL] sei auf der Suche nach einem neuen Image" describes a possibility, but "gives the impression that [OBL] is looking for a new image" describes a fact.
And your blog posting title, "T-Online: Bin Laden, Not so Bad After All", is pure polemics, while the original title just describes a fact.

Note from David: Thanks for sharing the subtleties of translating a German text with us.
As to the title - nowhere did we imply that our title was a translation of the T-Online title. Of course do we use polemics and sarcasm in our posting titles. That is certainly not lost on the majority of visitors of this blog.
Again, our translation correctly describes the intentions of the author. Never do we attempt to change the meaning of articles through a biased translation. Given the bi-langual sophistication of our visitors, this would be a futile attempt.
Please move on to other topics now.

"Thanks for sharing the subtleties of translating a German text with us."

These are no subtleties. Konjunktiv and Indikativ are completely different language constructs with a different meaning that must be differently translated. This is a fact, no matter how often you repeat that your "translation correctly describes the intentions of the author". Did you read the author's mind? I have the impression that you are so biased against the German media that you cannot comment neutrally any more.

"Given the bi-langual sophistication of our visitors, this would be a futile attempt."

If your readers are bi-lingual, then why do you need a translation?

"Please move on to other topics now."

I know it's uncomfortable to be confronted with mistakes. You want to do "Medienkritik", but cannot admit your own faults?

Note from David: The reason why I didn't respond in detail to your allegations is the lack of time I can allocate for comment management. I stand to my opinion.
As to your allegation that "you are so biased..." and "cannot admit your own faults" - I don't allow this kind of general insult in our blog. Feel free to start your own blog to disseminate your critique of "Medienkritik". We, too, publish our critique of SPIEGEL, Stern, etc. in our own blog, not in the discussion forums of these news outlets.
For the time being, I change your comment's status to "hold for approval". Thank you and have a nice day.

The comments to this entry are closed.


The Debate

Blog powered by Typepad

April 2023

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29